Questions that Sharky gets a lot

Q: What's a pilot fish?

A: There are two answers to that question. One is the Mother Nature version: Pilot fish are small fish that swim just ahead of sharks. When the shark changes direction, so do the pilot fish. When you watch underwater video of it, it looks like the idea to change direction occurred simultaneously to shark and pilot fish.

Thing is, sharks go pretty much anywhere they want, eating pretty much whatever they want. They lunge and tear and snatch, but in so doing, leave plenty of smorgasbord for the nimble pilot fish.

The IT version: A pilot fish is someone who swims with the sharks of enterprise IT -- and lives to tell the tale. Just like in nature, a moment's inattention could end the pilot fish's career. That's life at the reef.

Q: Are all the Sharky stories true?

A: Yes, as best we can determine.

Q: Where do the Sharky tales come from?

A: From readers. Sharky just reads and rewrites and basks in the reflected glory of you, our readers. It is as that famous fish-friendly philosopher Spinoza said, "He that can carp in the most eloquent or acute manner at the weakness of the human mind is held by his fellows as almost divine."

Q: How do I get one of those fabulous Sharky T-shirts?

A: Here's how it works. You send us your tale of perfidy, heroism or just plain weirdness at your IT shop. If Sharky selects it for publication, you get the shirt -- free and clear, no handling charges.

Q: Do I have to write my story in Sharky-ese?

A: No. Not at all. Just be sure to give us details. What happened, to whom, what he said, what she said, how it all worked out.

Q: I've got a really funny story, but I could get fired if my old trout of a boss found out I told you. How confidential is what I send to Sharky?

A: We don't publish names: yours, your boss's, your trout's, your company's. We try to file off the serial numbers, though there's no absolute guarantee that someone who lived through the incident won't recognize himself. Our aim is to share the outrageous, knee-slapping, milk-squirting-out-your-nose funny tales that abound in the IT world, not to get you fired. That would not be funny.

Q: You published my tale. Where's my T-shirt?

A: Hey, hey, cut us a break. You sent your tale over the Internet. If we could send your Shark shirt that way, you can bet we would.

Because most Shark Tank submissions don't include a full mailing address, we have to contact each pilot fish to get the address before sending out a T-shirt. That's done in batch mode, so it can take anywhere from a day to a few weeks. When things really get backed up, it can fall behind as much as a month or more.

But be assured: Sharky vows to forget no one!

Occasionally by the time your tale sees print, your e-mail address will have changed. If your e-mail address changed after you sent your contribution and you never got your shirt, let us know at We'll get right on it.

Q: How do I get each new Shark Tank tale emailed to me?

Easy. Subscribe to the newsletter.

Q: Where are the Sharkives?

Tales of old can be found in Sharky's archive.

Welcome to Datatown, a not-so-friendly community

IT pilot fish is called in to a project meeting with four other analysts -- and it's clear right away that this isn't going well. The big question: to normalize or not to normalize.

No comment

Flashback to the days when this IT pilot fish is still in college, and most of his instructors are extremely good. Then there's the one with VERY specific standards for documentation...

Four words: Read. The. Furshlugginer. Manual.

This company is working on a project that uses mobile devices and barcodes, but it's hit a snag: The wireless barcode reader won't pair with the tablet.

Looks like neither M is for Money (or Math)

This IT consultant pilot fish and his cohorts have recently gotten some good news: Their company has beefed up their 401(k) with full vesting and a better match. So why doesn't fish's co-worker seem to care?

What was on YOUR mind the morning of your wedding?

This programmer has two things on his mind: his upcoming wedding and the thorny problem of triggering terminal screen updates in near-real-time as data changes. Guess when he gets the idea for a solution?

Who says all the wonder is gone from IT nowadays?

This older employee's wireless mouse suddenly stops working, so she buys a new one and hooks it up the same way as before. Her question to this support pilot fish: Why won't the new mouse do anything?

Big data from the web? What can possibly go wrong?

This IT pilot fish starts getting email for somebody else's business -- at an address that includes fish's own domain name. That doesn't worry him much, but then he gets a letter in the mail.

Maybe that's not a problem for YOU...

This IT pilot fish is working under contract at a government facility -- until the contract is rebid, and fish's company loses. Can fish still keep doing the same job and work for his old company? Well, sort of.

Guess the 'unboxing' scenario wasn't on the list

This new hire at a health services company has been issued a brand new iPhone. But why is she having so much trouble making phone calls with it?

Is this why mainframes almost never get rebooted?

Flashback to the late 1980s, when PCs are beginning to arrive at the government agency where this pilot fish works -- and not just on users' desks. Who knew a mainframer with a PC could have problems?

I just grab it from the App Store and go, right?

IT pilot fish who's supporting a software development project gets an email from a developer who can no longer get remote access to his resources -- and has his own ideas about how to fix the problem.

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